'Thanks a million' for visiting Leeds art galleries and museums, say culture chiefs

More than a million visitors have flocked to see captivating exhibitions and displays at the city's museums and galleries this year.

Queens of Industry exhibition held at Leeds Industrial Museum
Queens of Industry exhibition held at Leeds Industrial Museum

Figures for Leeds’s nine council-run sites show an estimated 1.3m people have explored the city’s heritage in the last 12 months, as well as attending special exhibitions to mark the anniversaries of landmark moments in British history.

And at a time when arts and culture is proving to be good for your mental health, the boost has been welcomed by Councillor Judith Blake, the leader of Leeds City Council.

She said: “It has been an outstanding year for our city’s museums and galleries and those working so hard to bring history to life for the people of Leeds, have excelled themselves in their creativity and imagination.

Thomas Chippendale exhibition at Temple Newsam in 2018.

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    “The incredible numbers of people who have visited our sites through 2018 is also testament to the exciting and engaging opportunities offered. I look forward to seeing an equally impressive programme capturing the imaginations of visitors in the coming year.”

    Highlights of this year’s programme include A Woman’s Place? at Abbey House museum, which has celebrated the extraordinary struggles and accomplishments of women through the ages.

    Part of this year’s commemorations to mark 100 years since the first women in the UK won the right to vote, the exhibition features Leeds Suffragettes Leonora Cohen and Mary Gawthorpe alongside modern-day heroines like Olympic gold medallist Nicola Adams.

    Lotherton scaled the heights of fashion with a stunning display of clothing creations from the Himalayan region as well paying tribute to the mining industry with a poignant exhibition developed with the help of local retired miners.

    Leeds Art Gallery

    And Leeds City Museum welcomed tens of thousands as they hosted a breath-taking collection of work by Otley-born master craftsman Thomas Chippendale earlier this year before examining the incredible feats of the natural world’s most proficient animal architects in their current Beavers to Weavers exhibition.

    The free city centre museum capped an incredible year by being named the most family friendly attraction of its kind in the country at the prestigious Kids in Museums Award.

    Fresh off last year’s reopening following a major redevelopment project, Leeds Art Gallery examined nature’s artistry and skill through Natural Selection, a collaboration between contemporary artist Andy Holden and his father Peter.

    The gallery also celebrated its 130th anniversary by displaying a collection of work by Bradford-born Francis Butterfield and Turner Prize winning artist Mark Wallinger’s Threshold to the Kingdom.

    A Woman's Place? exhibition at Abbey House Museum in Leeds

    This year also saw museums and galleries hosting an impressively varied and ambitious programme of events and activities to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the signing of the historic armistice agreement which brought the First World War to a close.

    Among them was a stunning display of yellow poppies at Leeds Industrial Museum honouring the workers of The Great War, a century-old flag made by a Leeds teenager which was display at Leeds City Museum and a moving display at Kirkstall Abbey looking at how individuals from different faiths and backgrounds responded to the conflict.

    Leeds Museums & Galleries is the largest local authority-run museum service in England, with a total of 1.3 million objects.New exhibitions in 2019 include one to mark the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, a Royal Collection exhibition will run at 12 venues including Leeds Art Gallery from February 1.From February 8 Leeds City Museum will feature the work of Michael Morpurgo, one of Britain’s best loved story makers.